Written by: Ben Atlas
New standards of convenience created by the Internet have brought about a new style of teaching: open education. A free, Internet-based means of teaching, open education provides a way for students to learn, practice and review concepts they have been taught in class. It is a use- ful tool because it greatly supple- ments the knowl- edge of students who are struggling as well as those excelling. Organizations such as Khan Academy and edX have enormous potential to aid conventional teaching processes.
Students of all academic levels commonly struggle with one concept or another. A teacher’s explanation is often inad- equate for some students, and time to clarify concepts that are unclear is limited. Open education’s wide range of quickly accessible information can stabilize a student’s shaky or missing knowledge. It can also help compensate for missed lectures and especially challenging material by providing an alternative source with similar, or sometimes more indepth instruction.
Open education’s usefulness is not only for students who are struggling or falling behind in their classes; Those who excel have the opportunity to move beyond course materials to be challenged by new ones and confront a higher education. Open education is a tool that can remove a teacher’s burden of lecturing rudimentary information. One of its eventual goals is to replace the baseline textbook lectures with videos that can be viewed on the students’ own time before or after coming to class. The teacher can then provide individual mentorship and guidance to each individual at his or her own pace rather than giving a rough median level of instruction to the group. Opponents of open education often warn of Internet-based teaching becom- ing a crutch for educator, and replacing the human element of teaching. This can be easily avoided as long as videos are used as a supplement, replacing baseline lectures rather than personalized instruction. Thus, the human element of teaching is expanded upon since time is freed up to deal with students individually, rather than instructing multiple levels of knowledge at once.
This novel form of education is not limited to elementary and secondary grade levels. Rather, it is primarily used on college campuses. Top universities, in- cluding Harvard, University of California at Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have begun to post lectures and course material online in video for- mat. These videos are available to any stu- dent or Internet user in a coalition called edX. edX’s system provides a means to upload materials in a format that gives an entire classroom experience online. While these lectures are not yet mainstream enough to make complete virtual colle- giate instruction a reality, the technology shows promise in coming years.
Through the accessibility provided by the Internet, it is possible for virtual learning to become a useful tool in schooling from earlier grades to higher education. Consider- ing the benefits to both a student’s comprehen- sion and the effectiveness of instruc- tion, teachers should be encour- aged to include forms of open education in their classes. While there are educators at Gunn who post notes and lectures online, those that do so in video format remain a minority. To encourage the usage of online-based education at Gunn, the administration should contin- ue to provide the means and structure for teachers to shift materials to the Internet. Open education has enormous untapped potential to ability to transform the way curriculum is delivered.